Theatre

Review: Rope

By John Nathan, December 29, 2009

I admit to a rush of guilty pleasure when it was announced that the Almeida had chosen Rope for its seasonal offering. It arrived with childhood flashbacks of a Sunday afternoon in front of the telly gripped by the Hitchcock film and enthralled — and appalled — by the ruthlessness of the conceit, that killing can be a creative act, and that murder can be a civilising influence.

I would have been even more fascinated had I known that the film was based, via Patrick Hamilton’s play, on real events.

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Review: Misanthrope

By John Nathan, December 22, 2009

Two lessons were learned during one of the biggest opening nights of the year. One was that Keira Knightley is a very good actor; the other is that Martin Crimp’s modern London version of Molière’s comedy has less to say about today’s facile obsession with celebrity and status than the 17th-century Parisian original.

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Review: Red

By John Nathan, December 22, 2009

John Logan’s two-hander focuses on the dilemma faced by Jewish artist Mark Rothko over accepting a commission to paint murals for a restaurant. Has he sold out or not? Alfred Molina glowers splendidly as the troubled artist but it is Eddie Redmayne as his questioning helper who shines.

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Review: Sweet Charity

By John Nathan, December 22, 2009

The Menier has become the UK’s most trusted reviver of the great Broadway musical, and it scores again with this classic by Dorothy Fields, Neil Simon and Cy Coleman. Tamzin Outhwaite in the role of the lovelorn dance-hall hostess Charity Hope Valentine has a hardness missing from Shirley Maclaine’s film version, the show is stuffed with great numbers — Hey, Big Spender, If They Could See Me Now, Something Better Than This — and the choreography is pure Bob Fosse.

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How the best show in town was born

By John Nathan, December 17, 2009

The best seasonal show in London this year has nothing to do with the season. Charity is involved, it is true, but it comes in the form of Charity Hope Valentine, the lovelorn heroine of the musical Sweet Charity. The 1966 Broadway show has been thrillingly revived this year at producer David Babani’s Menier Chocolate Factory venue in Southwark. Matthew White’s production, starring Tamzin Outhwaite, will be in the running for some major best musical awards.

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Review: Jack And The Beanstalk

By John Nathan, December 17, 2009

Other than Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, the most controversial play this year was Richard Bean’s England People Very Nice. With its stereotypes of militant Muslims, agricultural Irish and hora-dancing Chasids it greatly offended those with a sense-of-humour bypass.

Now Bean has co-written his first pantomime — with Che Walker, Joel Horwood and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm — and it too has a distinct un-PC strain.

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Review: Red

By John Nathan, December 10, 2009

Did you see the Mark Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern earlier this year? It focused on the Seagram Murals, the giant, fathomless landscapes the New York artist produced for the Four Seasons Restaurant in 1958 and ’59. What a wonderful companion piece John Logan’s play would have made to that exhibition.

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Review: Sweet Charity

By John Nathan, December 10, 2009

The Menier has become the UK’s most trusted reviver of the great Broadway musical. From highbrow Sondheim to the pastiche of Alan Menken’s Little Shop of Horrors, the Southwark venue has done America’s cultural gift to the world proud.

If I were to find one negative in this latest exhilarating revival, it might be that Tamzin Outhwaite in the role of the lovelorn Charity Hope Valentine lacks the uncorrupted sweetness of, say, Shirley MacLaine’s film version.

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Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

By John Nathan, December 3, 2009

The question that has nagged at this Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’s play is: why an all-black cast? After all, the family that populates Williams’s drama is rich, white and headed by Big Daddy, a formidable southern patriarch referred to by his daughter-in-law Maggie as a redneck. The favourite son, Brick, is an ex-American football hero now lost to alcohol, his drinking driven by the self-disgust that he has been brought up to feel about men who love other men.

It is a play whose dialogue is steeped in the language of white, southern bigotry. At least it used to be.

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Review: The Priory

By John Nathan, December 3, 2009

Arriving after two of the biggest hits of the year, Michael Wynne’s new comedy may be a victim of its venue’s previous successes. The Priory is not set in the celebrity detox clinic of the same name, but an isolated country pile that was once a monastery and is now a holiday home. It is New Year’s Eve and Kate has booked the place to draw a line under her annus horribilis during which she had a miscarriage, her boyfriend left her and her mother died. Yes, I did say a comedy.

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